Xia Guan: Symphony No2 Hope

review guan x1 cong

We always find film soundtracks a bit naff — they seem to lack soul, partly because they’ve usually got to play in a film without overwhelming the plot, and partly because some sections are written to be in the background.

This new CD by renowned Chinese composer Xia Guan is good because it sounds like a film soundtrack — he is known in his home country for film and television work — but isn’t encumbered by an actual film. The music has got all the warmth of a film score, with stirring bits, quiet bits and bits that canter along nicely in between without having to sacrifice anything for the sake of plot. It’s also approachable — if you’re a bit scared of classical music there’s not much to alarm you here. We dare say classical buffs will say it’s too mainstream and middle of the road. It’s probably true that it is a case of never mind the quality, feel the width, and there’s not much that’s Chinese about it, either.

Symphony No 2 Hope is in three movements and (say the sleeve notes) is a reflection on “the co-existence of agony and hope, good and evil…” Whatever: it sounds like the music for a big budget western starring John Wayne.

Earth Requiem is a commemoration of the great 2008 Sichuan earthquake. It starts slowly and builds, lamenting the loss of 80,000 people, albeit in a slick and commercial way. It’s the music for a CGI disaster movie, where only computer-generated crowds have been hurt. The same goes for Sorrowful Dawn, about the Chinese War of Liberation, the brass making it swellingly patriotic but again going for mass appeal rather than sentiment. The Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra performs, En Shao conducts. Despite (or because of) its limitations, it’s an enjoyable 81 minutes.

Out on Naxos (8570618).

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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